Wednesday, August 20, 2008
LAUREL PARK FALL RACING DATES, STAKES SCHEDULE APPROVED
LAUREL, MD. 08-19-08---The Laurel Park fall stakes schedule was approved this afternoon at the monthly Maryland Racing Commission meeting. Earlier in the month, the Maryland Jockey Club and Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (MTHA) agreed to eliminate all the open stakes races for the fall meeting, including the Grade I Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash, as the industry faces a shortfall in the purse account.
Because of the reductions the 2008 fall stakes program only includes 11 $50,000 state-bred stakes races and the 12 races on Maryland Million Day, a day of races restricted to the offspring of Maryland-based stallions only. The 23 stakes races will total $2.23 million.
The 65-day 2008 fall meeting, which begins Thursday, September 4, is headlined by the 23rd annual Maryland Million on October 4, with purses of nearly $1.7 million. The 17-week fall meeting will feature live racing on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons (with Columbus holiday exception) through December 27.
“Eliminating graded stakes races is deeply troubling but this is the reality of our business in its current state,” said Tom Chuckas, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Maryland Jockey Club. “We are hoping the slot machine referendum going before voters November 4 will pass, which will level the playing field between Maryland and the tracks in Delaware, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Until then we have the challenge of attempting to compete without significantly reducing racing days. To do this we collectively agreed that adjusting the stakes schedule was the best compromise.”
The De Francis Dash is one of just three Grade I races contested in Maryland, along with the Preakness Stakes, the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown, and the historic Pimlico Special. Introduced in 1990, the De Francis Dash is one of the elite six-furlong sprints in the country with four of the 17 winners-Housebuster (1991), Cherokee Run (1994), Smoke Glacken (1997) and Thor’s Echo (2006)-earning Eclipse Award honors for champion sprinter.
Other races put on hiatus include the Laurel Futurity and Selima Stakes, marquee races for two-year-olds, and the Grade III Safely Kept Stakes.
The current Laurel summer meeting concludes at the central Maryland oval with nine-race cards on Wednesday and Thursday. Live racing then shifts to the Timonium State Fair the following afternoon for a seven-day stand which concludes on Labor Day.
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